This is an update on Los Mineros of Cananea which as of this writing have been on strike for 963 days. Most of us cannot relate to that time frame because we have never been on strike for that length of time. Those that have experienced a strike for any length of time have an idea of what being on strike is like but probably not for almost three years.
Maria “LA” Garcia, President Maria Rosa Guayante Garcia,
Blanca E. Morales and Jose Tesorio
The banner reads: Justice for Los Mineros NOW –
The World is Watching – Los Mineros don’t stand alone!
This past February 11, 2010 a federal court in Mexico handed down a decision in favor of Grupo Mexico (the company) which gives them permission to fire the union workers (Los Mineros), terminate the labor agreement, and begin production. As in the past, the government has threatened to use armed forces to remove Los Mineros from the mine. The decision didn’t settle well with Los Mineros, Steelworkers or other Unions in the world. A two day forum at Los Mineros Union Hall in Cananea was scheduled for February 18th and 19th, 2010 and the invitation went out to all Unions in Mexico and around the world. There were also buses that came from the other strike location in Taxco (seccion 17) and Somrerete (seccion 201). Politicians were invited to attend the forum.
I was invited, along with a delegation from District 7, to attend the Forum. We were welcomed with open arms by the President of the Women’s group in Cananea, Maria Rosa Garcia Guayante, who has since been promoted to a National position of President of the National Women’s Front in Struggle for the Dignity of All Workers in Mexico.
The six huge Euclid trucks symbolizing that equipment is
truly functional and ready to roll.
The first day of the Forum was held in the Local Union Hall. It was an all day session with speakers including President Napoleon Gomez via teleconferencing on a big screen on the stage. He welcomed everyone and also thanked everyone for their support. The hall often erupted in chants and some I can’t repeat (explicit) but one that left such an impression on me was the one that went as follows: ” If there is no solution………there will be a revolution”. As one of the strongest Independent Democratic union in Mexico, the membership has vowed to occupy the mine until justice is served and their collective bargaining agreement is respected at whatever cost.
The second day of the Forum was held outside on the street right in front of the mine. In the near distance you notice the mine entrance closed and the traditional half red and half black strike (huelga) flag hung on the gate. Once again there were many speakers in support of Los Mineros of Cananea and their families and also attacks on the current President Felipe Calderon. Napoleon Gomez once again addressed the crowd and the crowd responded with favorable chants for their Leader.
Escorted inside the strike gates by Jose Juan of Los Mineros
This past year numerous times in the media there have been accusation and claims from Grupo Mexico that the mine is not operable. The accusation is that the mine and the equipment have been vandalized by Los Mineros and it will take million(s) of dollars to repair the mine or better yet it is just inoperable. To prove the contrary, on the hill top of the mine, there were six Euclid trucks that on cue started their engines, flashed their head lights and lifted the dump bed up and down as a sign that the equipment is functional. It was a great moment. We had a brother, Jose Juan, escort a few of us to the hilltop to witness this event close up. It was a chilling experience, one that I will never forget. Near the truck were several piles of what appeared to be small cannon balls that sparked my curiosity. I didn’t quite understand the explanation Jose Juan gave me but as we gathered a few for souvenirs He stopped us and said “don’t take too many because how will we defend ourselves”. They had been used as weapons against the Granaderos (troops) who had invaded Cananea January 11, 2008. If you look around you will find numerous piles all along the trail and around the gate. Los Mineros have vowed not to get caught off guard again. The picket lines are manned 24 -7.
History has a way of repeating itself. In 1906 Mexican workers in Cananea went on strike because they were being paid less than the American workers at the then American owned mine. Even then military personnel (Arizona Rangers) were used to end the strike. This, along with other events, is believed to have contributed to the start of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
The mining accident at Pasta De Conchos, where 63 miners are still buried in the mine without the dignity and respect of a proper burial began the struggle. The surviving widows (Vuidas) mothers, sisters and other family members continue to protest in front of the mine and some have been there since the day of the mining accident. Napoleon Gomez demands the government of President Felipe Calderon and Grupo Mexico to investigate this horrific accident, calling it,” industrial homicide”. Thus began attacks against Napoleon and his family, creating a situation where he eventually had to flee from his country. The safety conditions in the mines operated by Grupo Mexico have been inspected and all the violations have been documented.
The government has repeatedly filed charges against Napoleon Gomez and other union leaders, accusing them of stealing money from a trust fund, thus justifying the freezing of the bank accounts. However, allegations of fraud against Napoleon Gomez have been declared false by an independent audit conducted by a Swiss firm for the IMF. The freezing of these bank accounts makes it impossible to pay strike benefits and staff.
The original smoke stack to the mine bellowing smoke to
symbolize they are ready to return to work
Juan Linares Montufar, union leader of Los Mineros, has been jailed since December 2008. In Mexico, you are guilty until proven innocent. Multiple court rulings have deemed that the charges against him are with no merit and are baseless. But he still remains in jail.
Los Mineros of Cananea and their families for almost three years have struggled with manipulation of water, lack of medication, closing of the hospital, education for the children, lack of natural gas for heating and cooking and also the confrontation from the troops sent by the government. Yet they stand strong and together. That is truly amazing.
In 2009 the federal government fired our brothers from the SME (Mexican Electrical Workers) with a membership of 44,000 members. This and the strike in Cananea are clear indications that President Felipe Calderon wants to bust the independent unions in Mexico.
The trip was quick and very structured but I left there having witnessed the true meaning of Solidarity. They are fighting for all of us! Los Mineros wanted me to convey to everyone how appreciative they are about our continued support. I am committed to continue to support them in any way I can. So if anyone is interested in a JUSTICE t-shirt please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Solidarity, Blanca E. Morales USW LU 3657
La Lucha Sigue!!! Un Dia Mas!!! Hasta La Victoria!!!
The Struggle continues!!! One Day Longer!!! Until the Victory!!!